Whether the culprit is an overzealous gift-giving grandparent, the endless accumulation of new and improved items, or your kiddo’s rapidly changing interests, there’s a good chance that — if you’re a parent — you have a surplus of toys in your home.
As kids grow out of things, holidays cycle through again and again, and we all work to reduce our carbon footprints, the next order of business that needs addressing is where to donate all of those gently used toys.
While it’s totally acceptable to go the route of reselling or sharing toys with another family member or friend, there are plenty of children who do not have the privilege of having their own toy collection.
This is where you can make a difference! As you do your part to mitigate the world’s plastic and e-waste problems (toys make up about 6% of landfill waste worldwide and produce more electronic waste than vapes), you’ll also be supporting children in need.
To make this easier, we’ve rounded up a list of charities and organizations that are always on the lookout for toy donations, as well as other options you can access in your community.
The Best Organizations That Accept Toy Donations
Second Chance Toys
Founded in 2006, Second Chance Toys rescues and recycles plastic toys and donates them to community organizations that service children in need.
The organization partners with a number of drop-off locations across the U.S. By navigating the online map, you can find an accredited location near you, register as a donor, sign up for a time to drop off your toys (or have them picked up), and you’re good to go!
Before you gather your toys for donation, be sure to check out Second Chance Toys’ Getting Started Kit to make sure you’ve got the right stuff. The organization only accepts clean plastic toys with no small or missing parts (and batteries must be functioning and secured within the toy).
Toys For Tots
Toys for Tots is a nonprofit created by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve that was founded in 1991 with the goal of providing toys to less fortunate children around the holidays.
Local campaigns are conducted annually in over 800 communities across all 50 states, distributing an average of 8 million toys every year.
While Toys for Tots only accepts new, unwrapped toy donations, this is a great way to donate any unused items that have accumulated in your household (or maybe you were given a duplicate toy as a gift!).
Find a local chapter and donation location in your area by using the Toys for Tots Search Tool.
Ronald McDonald House
The Ronald McDonald House houses thousands of children and families every year who undergo critical medical care. During that time, it’s important for young people to have access to toys and play items!
The organization does not accept used toys, but if you have any new and unopened (and unwanted) toys, you can donate them to one of hundreds of locations across the country.
And if you’re just in the spirit of giving, you can also explore your local chapter’s current Ronald McDonald House wish list, as well.
Stuffed Animals for Emergencies
Is there anything more comforting than snuggling up with a soft stuffed animal?
Stuffed Animals for Emergencies (SAFE) accepts stuffed animal donations and distributes them to children in need who have been impacted by natural disasters or other emergency situations.
SAFE accepts new and used stuffed toys, no matter how loved they are. The organization also accepts donations of items like blankets, books, kids clothes, and baby items.
Operation Homefront is a great option if you’re looking to support veteran, wounded, and active-duty military families.
The organization accepts new and used toy and game donations to provide for military families that are relocated. For more than a decade, the organization has partnered with Dollar Tree to act as donation collection points during the holiday season in November and December.
However, you don’t have to visit a Dollar Tree store to donate. Operation Homefront makes it easy to set up a collection bin at your office, store, school, or church, as well.
To find donation locations or volunteer events in your area, visit Operation Homefront’s Facebook page.
Cradles to Crayons
Of course, part of this includes toys! Cradles to Crayons accepts new and almost-new toys through grassroots community drives and corporate donations.
From there, donations are processed and packaged by volunteers in the organization’s warehouse: The Giving Factory. Then, packages full of essentials are distributed to local low-income families.
The Arc is a community-based advocacy organization for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Local chapters of the organization accept donations of physical items in good condition — including toys — that can be sold in their thrift stores.
These stores provide work experience for adults with disabilities. Find your local chapter to find out what items they accept and schedule a donation pick-up.
Habitat For Humanity
Another easy donation point is Goodwill. The popular thrift store provides career counseling, skills training, and more for job seekers in need.
Additionally, you can ask for a tax benefit receipt upon donating.
The Salvation Army is a Protestant Christian church and charitable organization that was founded way back in 1865 in London. But the give-back element of the organization is how it’s best recognized in the U.S.
You can donate your new and used toys, stuffed animals, books (and other goods like clothes and housewares) to the Salvation Army. They will then be sold at the organization’s thrift stores, funding more charity work in your community.
Find your local Salvation Army and even schedule a free donation pick-up.
Other Places To Donate Toys
Foster Care Programs
Foster care or children’s shelters in your area will likely be happy to take your pre-loved toys. In a turbulent environment, these items can be especially grounding and significant in the lives of young people.
You can go online to search for programs in your area, call and ask to learn more about how to make a donation, and get to gathering your goodies!
Even if a local program does not accept donations, they may be able to direct you to specific children in need who would most appreciate your pre-loved items.
Need a place to start? Check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway to find contact information for an agency near you.
Imagine dropping off your kiddo at daycare — along with a big box of toys they no longer play with. Your local daycare centers are another great avenue for donating used toys, especially wooden or plastic toys that are durable and easy to clean.
Just be sure to check in ahead of time to make sure the daycare centers in question are accepting donations!
While libraries are already usually pretty well-stocked with a large variety of items you can check-out, they’ll usually never turn down some more resources for the community!
A great way to discard used toys or books is by donating games and toys during a community book sale at the library. Check in with your beloved librarian ahead of time to see what kinds of donations might be accepted.
Similar to daycare centers, after-school programs may also be interested in giving your toys a new life.
Who knows? They could be shared with younger children who need supplies to play and explore after school, or they can be repurposed as art supplies or robotics projects for older students.
Again, be sure to ask before you attempt to make a donation for maximum efficacy.
Hospitals are one place where kids are in dire need of a distraction, and toys come in really handy. Many hospitals or doctor’s offices gladly accept donated toys for patients to play with in the waiting room, or as a coping tool in the exam room.
One thing to remember, though, is that most hospitals have strict hygiene policies and might not accept used toy donations. Mount Sinai Children’s Hospital has a great list of toy donation suggestions, but be sure to call ahead at your local hospital to learn about specific requirements.
Shelters that serve unhoused children and families, or those impacted by domestic violence, are a great option for donating your used toys.
Find a shelter or safe home near you and ask if they accept these donations and what parameters they may have in place.
No luck sharing your toys with other kids? If you have stuffed animals to donate, some adoptable dogs from your local animal shelter would certainly be happy to take them off your hands!
Of course, check in with your local shelter, but most times, you’ll want to avoid donating plushies with any small parts, like button eyes or electronic packs. Stay away from any materials that could be ripped off or ingested, or that could be harmful to animals, like beads or plastic.
Just be warned: You may come in with the goal to get some faux furry friends off your hands, but it will also be tempting to leave with a real one. (We’re not stopping you!)
First responders like firefighters, EMTs, or police officers may keep stuffed animals or other small toys on hand to comfort kids on the heels of a traumatic event.
Many fire departments and other local agencies will host toy drives around the holidays, but you can also reach out to see if anyone is accepting these donations throughout the year, as well.
Faith-based organizations, like churches, mosques, synagogues, and other community centers, often serve as a generalized drop-off location for all kinds of donated goods.
Many are happy to accept donations of toys, games, crafts, or books for members to use — or to distribute to folks in need throughout the community.
Call up your local faith-based organization and ask if they’ll accept your items, or if they can point you in the direction of the best place to donate.
If your toys have truly been so loved that they don’t have much of a life cycle outside of your family toybox, you can recycle them instead of throwing them in the trash. First, look into your local recycling guidelines to see if they can be easily accepted from your curb.
Buy-Nothing Groups are some of the best corners of the internet. It’s where people in your area go to offer up free items that they no longer use — no strings attached.
Whether these take the shape of Facebook Marketplace listings, posts on your NextDoor app, or the Buy Nothing Project itself, you can offer up your used toys to someone in your community who can give them a better life.
The Buy Nothing Project has a great forum to find an established group in your area.
Your Barbie could be the next big thing. Believe it or not, you might be able to donate your toys to a museum!
Museums love cultural artifacts like these to enhance their exhibits — especially the Strong Museum of Play. Additionally, children’s museums may even accept used toys to be played with in communal areas.
As usual, be sure to contact the museum you have in mind to learn more.